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7 May 2014

Leah Hislop - The Art Spider

Those of you that have visited Contains Art recently cannot have failed to see the striking sculpture that has appeared in the courtyard. The more astute of you will have recognised that it was of course spun by the art spider, Leah Hislop, who was responsible for the colourful maze created as part of SAW's 2013 Abundance programme. It would seem that Leah could not resist weaving between the containers and making a statement on the harbour side at Watchet. 

So what brought Leah to Watchet?

In February this year she was awarded a bursary from the Golsoncott Foundation, a local charitable trust that was established in 1998 from the estate of the artist and sculptor Rachel Reckitt (1908-1995). The aim of the trust is to 'promote, maintain, improve and advance the education of the public in the arts generally and in particular… the fine arts and music.

Rachel lived in West Somerset at Golsoncott House, Rodhuish. Recognised as an accomplished artist she studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art during the 1930's. She then went on to attend Hammersmith School of Building Crafts from 1940 to 1945, followed by the Central School of Art and Design where she studied lithography.
If you are not familiar with her paintings and sculpture then I know that many of you will be subconsciously aware of the pub signs that she sculpted, including the Valiant Soldier in Roadwater, The Butchers Arms in Carhampton and the Blackbird Inn at West Buckland; the latter of which I know is currently under repair.

And so now Leah in her own unique way is maintaining and advancing the arts in West Somerset. The bursary has provided access to her own studio space and travel expenses  to commute from her home in Taunton. We have all heard the frustrated artist's refrain of - 'Oh if only I had my own studio space I would be more creative...'
Well the proof is in the pudding and Leah didn't waste any time. On the first day she moved into her empty box of a studio she began creating. A structure began to grow from what she instantly had to hand - paper. With no real formalised plan Leah began to fill the space, happy for a natural artistic direction to grow with the time and quiet that the studio provide. 

Working with paper has drawn her away from the familiar feel of wool and thread. Over the few weeks she has been working on the piece the making process has become more structured. A happy coincidence also occurred as the colours she first used unintentionally echoed the distressed colours of the boat hull that sits outside the studio window. As her confidence has grown, the colours too have become bolder and brighter, the paper has crept up to the ceiling and she now visualises it growing over her head and joining it's small beginnings. She has also planned to visit Watchet's paper mill for who better to hopefully supply her with her new found medium? 

The setting of Watchet, her proximity to the sea has also made it's presence felt in the installation - as I walked away I saw the wake of a boat as it chugged out of the harbour, it brought to mind the flow of Leah's installation and on reading her latest blog post she too recognises the influence of the sea, for it has turned into a claustrophobic, paper wave crashing down upon her; unwittingly she cannot escape creating labyrinths in which to entrap and conceal.

Leah's studio will be open to the public between the 21st May and the 4th June, 10 am until 4pm daily. You can also keep up with her thoughts and progress on her blog, a virtual, visual sketch book -  Leah Hislop - Site Specific Artist
If you are interested in learning more about Rachel Reckitt, her family and the house they lived in, do visit the following links where an interesting artistic Somerset history is revealed.

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